Formulated by Pierre Bourdieu, the term ‘cultural capital’ refers to the ideas, symbols, preferences, and tastes that can be tactically put in use as a resource for social action. These ideas and knowledge are drawn upon by individuals as they take part in their roles within the social arena and range from etiquette rules to the ability to read and write effectively for successful communication. In other words, cultural capital is the universal cultural background, disposition, as well as skills, that are transferred from generation to generation. It represents the ways in which people talk, how they socialize, act, perform their language practices, as well as their code of dressing, behaviors, and shared values. Through analogy with other forms of capital such as economic capital, cultural capital resources can be accumulated, invested, and converted into various forms. Consequently, individuals in upper social stratum can provide their children with various cultural competencies and language that offer them a likelihood of success not only in their education but also in their career life. On the other hand, working-class students who lack access to cultural recourses are likely to be unsuccessful in their academics, which is a factor that describes how our educational systems produce social class inequalities. According to Bourdieu, the distribution of cultural and economic capital reinforces each other. Success in academics, which reflects the original cultural capital, is the only means in which well-paid occupations can be achieved. The earnings acquired from high paying professions allow those who are successful to enroll their children in private educational systems with the aim of enhancing the opportunities for their educational accomplishment.
Cultural capital can be broken down into three categories including embodied cultural capital, objectified cultural capital, and institutionalized cultural capital. Embodied cultural capital refers to the skills and properties that an individual learns from his or her family. A superb example of this type of cultural capital is language. As a child, the first language is learned from the primary caregiver and the environment in which they grow up. The child’s ability to communicate efficiently plays an important part, especially when they join the school. Growing up in a household or environment that fosters effective communication equips the child with adequate skills required for learning. The languages children are exposed to also play a significant role and can be both advantageous and disadvantageous upon school entry. The environment where only one language is privileged, for instance, English, can make the cultural capital of any other language to be of little or no significance. In addition, exposing children to more than one language can be disadvantageous in cases where multiple languages hinder fluency of the preferred language.
Cultural capital in the objectified state manifests itself in all forms of the coherent, autonomous world which, even being the product of chronological action, possesses its laws, as well as the surpassing personal wills. Objectified cultural capital consists of forms of physical objects which symbolically express cultural capital. An example of a household that is rich in objectified cultural capital is a home that has access to books, paintings, and monuments, as well as other works of art. The last category of cultural capital is the institutionalized cultural capital, which is characterized by academic qualifications. Individuals enroll in learning institutions in order to acquire diplomas and other qualifications. They are pieces of papers that symbolize or tell other members of the society that they are educated and skillful in their respective majors and hence are worthy of employment. The papers representing their academic qualifications give various institutions, such as the labor market, opportunities to compare and contrast them qualitatively and quantitatively with other applicants searching for similar opportunities.
Pierre Bourdieu argues that the more cultural capital a person has, the better the person performs in his or her academics. He holds that social strata are arranged into three positions, including the first, middle, and the third class. The first class consists of people in the lower positions of the social classification such as small business traders, workers, and agricultural professions. The second class is made up of people in the intermediate social arrangement including industry employees, intermediate office staff, and business people. The third class, which is the last in order of classification, includes the affluent and the wealthy, as well as those in a high governmental position. Although each level of classification has its unique position in the cultural capital, the highest amount is afforded by those in the third class. The main reason that explains why children of the dominant class are likely to acquire cultural capital is that they are free from economic constraints. The freedom from economic constraints offers them opportunities to explore and acquire various skills from learning and other practices, hence making them competitive in the labor workforce.
Bourdieu believes that fluency in first or second class does not sufficiently describe or represent cultural capital. This stems from the idea that the two cultural fluencies do not transform into the affluent elite class, rather they transmute into either low or middle class. His main interest was in the manner in which the elite and affluent members of the society reproduce themselves from generation to generation. A high level of culture is characterized by classical music, art, dance, and literacy. However, it also encompasses architecture, cuisine, furniture, and vacation resorts, as well as clothing. Mastering these arts is a form of cultural capital because the knowledge can be transformed into both social and financial advantages at various points in a person’s life. For instance, when a lady puts on a fitting suit, carries a nice handbag, and wears beautiful shoes during a job interview, she lands on the job because of the impressive appearance. She was taught to clad well by her parents and peers. The culturally monitored skill pays off through landing on a prestigious career position. She may then get married to a millionaire and hence acquire a fortune. At that particular time, the cultural capital has offered her supplementary financial capital.
Children in the third class acquire cultural capital from both their families and education. In most cases, children of the affluent people in society obtain supplementary access to their culture in the learning institutions, because their educational curricula reinforce their household culture. This is not the case with children of the first class or intermediate class. Children of the poor people within certain communities, minority groups, and immigrants are disadvantaged. School culture subverts or contradicts their home culture in the sense that they are forced to master a new culture when in learning institutions and at the same time master thei